From being picky about traditions to greeting guests with some bubbly.

By Sarah Schreiber
December 13, 2019
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If you're in the thick of wedding planning, you've likely already discovered the importance of prioritizing a select few vendors or details. This priority list, of course, varies by couple. The same is true for the vendors who actually bring weddings to life-they have priority lists of their own. The difference? Theirs come backed with years of industry experience. To help you shape up your own big-day musts, we've tapped the biggest names in the wedding sphere-from planners and photographers to florists-to share their three wedding must-haves. Follow along with The Insider to learn which wedding-related details professionals can't live without.

"The first wedding I photographed, I did for $200—that included a wedding and an engagement session and the client found me through Craigslist," Washington, D.C.-based wedding photographer Abby Jiu recounts to Martha Stewart Weddings. "The ceremony was at a hotel and the setup wasn't traditional. I panicked right before the ceremony, because I didn't know where to stand. Needless to say, I calmed down and figured it out!"

Years into an incredible career, Jiu really does have it figured out—she's a huge name in the wedding industry and is one of the most sought-out photographers on the East Coast. She's captured all kinds of events to date and knows just about everything there is to know about incredible nuptials, including that the very best moments often emerge out of unforeseeable circumstances (a lesson she learned after getting stuck with a bride in a vintage car in the middle of a Washington, D.C., Pride Parade). Ahead, Jiu shares several of her big-day must-haves, and some more of her best advice—advice she'd tell herself, should she be getting married (again!) tomorrow.

Be selective with traditions.

Jiu says couples often get caught up in what they think their wedding should be, but it's important not to compare your own nuptials to your friends' (or even your parents'). Cake-cutting ceremonies, parent dances, sparkler exits—none are mandatory, says the pro. "Don't feel like you have to do any of these if they don't speak to you," she explains. "Instead, focus on making the wedding about the two of you and make your own traditions."

Think beyond one day.

If you can, Jiu recommends celebrating your nuptials over the course of "a long weekend, not just one day," wherever you decide to tie the knot. "Instead of putting pressure on just one day, invite 50 of your closest [friends and family] for a whole wedding weekend," she says. "Plan for activities throughout the weekend (and some relaxation time, too) to create those meaningful and memorable moments."

Get ready in a light-filled suite.

"This is an often-overlooked part of the day," notes Jiu. "Many couples make a room block and don't tour the actual room where they will be getting ready. If you think about the beginning of the day and how it sets tone, there's something to be said for natural light streaming in while you get ready with your closest friends." This is also crucial for beautiful pre-wedding photography: "This [allows for] details like your dress, invitation, shoes, to be photographed in gorgeous natural light."

Greet guests with Champagne.

You're throwing a party, says Jiu, so set the tone for one. "Why not kick it off with some bubbly? This is a festive and thoughtful way to show your guests you care about them and you want them to enjoy the festivities," she adds.

Opt for a technology-free ceremony.

Out of all the tips on Jiu's list, she says that she can't this stress one enough. A tech-free ceremony virtually ensures that everyone in attendance stays present during your vows. "And you don't have to worry about a guest with an iPad pointed at you while you exchange your rings," she notes. As for the best way to communicate this to your friends and family? "Directionally, [it involves] more than just writing it on a sign or having it in your program. The best way to convey the message is to have your officiant say it before you walk down the aisle—present and in the moment," she explains.

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